Books & Print

Is Goodreads actually good for reading?

Olivia Ross

Goodreads is a book tracking app that lets you find new books then read and review them, neatly putting them on shelves after you have completed them. It is a virtual bookcase, one where you can see all the books you’ve ever read and what other people think of them. 

I started using Goodreads a couple of years ago, after a friend of a friend told me that it seemed something I’d be interested in. As a whole I do really like the app. It lets me explore new books, find old favourites and see what my friends are reading as well.  The only thing that worries me is the possible competition side of it. It may just be me, since I am a very competitive person. But It has gotten to the point now where I feel as though I am reading more to prove something than I am for enjoyment. 

The reason for this is Goodreads’ ‘Reading Challenge of …….’ 

At the start of every year, or whenever you join Goodreads, you choose an amount of books that you want to aim to read. Then once you have logged a book, it is listed and added to create a percentage of how far the challenge has been completed. With the app also telling you how many books you need to read per week to reach your goal. Consistently focusing on numbers, and goals to be completed.

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This year I set my aim at 80, and for the first few days of 2021, I was doing well. Through reading and listening, I checked off a book a day in the first five days of January. But then on the sixth day when I just didn’t feel like reading or listening to anything, I started to beat myself up about the fact that I wasn’t working more to achieve this goal. It sounds silly. I knew I wouldn’t be able to read 70 books in the space of a week, that it would be a much longer, year long goal as the title of the challenge suggests. 

But these emotions that I was having, made me think about it properly, and I realised that by constantly updating when I had read a book, I was reading more to see the numbers go up than for the stories. Then I started wondering, was it just me who was feeling like this? After talking about this to many people and vaguely researching around it, I can see that I’m not. 

It might just be indicative of our dependency on social media, but it feels like, in an age where we are sharing everything we do, that Goodreads has now become a part of this ‘quantity over quality’ trend that happens on other social media apps.Where we post something, just to get a post out or get a reaction, rather than it being something we care about. Thinking with this in mind, looking back on what books I read last year, I can definitely see aspects of this trend popping up. For example, I read the entire Mary Poppins series. Was it because I love Mary Poppins? No. The books are short with big writing, something I could easily read in an hour to get me to the next digit.

Will being aware of this new competitive side of reading affect me using Goodreads? Probably not. But it is something I’ll be thinking about when choosing what book to read next or when I notice myself getting stressed about a hobby that is meant to be enjoyed. 

There are so many things I could write about Goodreads. It is very hit and miss. From being run by amazon, to having a limited selection of books and having a confusing review system. It definitely has more faults than what I’ve briefly outlined in this article. 

If you want to look at more discussions surrounding this, here are some resources I found on the topic, though there is much more debate surrounding Goodreads and it’s quality:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/jan/16/bad-goodreads-reading-challenge-literature-numbers
  2. http://www.gobookyourself.info/2014/01/does-goodreads-challenge-really-have.html
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFkow1YU2W0